Sequels can be better - The weeks of truth II
Tonight the weeks of truth II start. Between now and mid April, we’ll be meeting opponents such as VfB Stuttgart (7th), VfL Wolfsburg (9th), Scheisse 04 (3rd), Borussia Moenchengladbach (4th) and Bayern Muenchen (2nd). Expectations should be moderate. With five points ahead of Bayern Muenchen and still 21 points out to gain, it is still a long way to go. Contrary to the current focus of Black and Yellow supporters to somehow get tickets to the final league and cup game, the important things still happen on the pitch. So here we are and Stuttgart is up next.
The lineup of these coming weeks is a challenging one for sure. The game in Cologne was a encouraging showing of strength and an important signal as well. After a series of close but mostly dominating games against Fuerth, Bremen, Mainz and the tie in Augsburg, our young guns flexed their muscles to show the league that we can if we need to. That doesn’t mean that the season is over - far from it - nor that we have to go out and blow everyone off the pitch like Cologne. A managed and well-played one - nill can preserve the strength needed in the final weeks of this year’s competition and may prove to be the competitive advantage we need.
Looking at the statistics before tonight’s 28th round of Bundesliga football, our Borussia Dortmund stands at 62 points with a 5 point lead. This translates into a 2.3 pt average compared to Bayern’s 2.1 pts/game. Considering the worst case scenario with the Bavarians winning all remaining games (a distinct possibility), Dortmund would have to collect an additional 17 points to keep a 1 point lead at the end of the season. That translates into a 2.4 pt average, higher than what we’ve been able to produce this season. Even if we can repeat the fantastic series from earlier in the season and walk away from the next five games with 2 draws (Stuttgart, Gladbach) and 3 wins (Bayern, Blue Scum, Wolfsburg), those 11 points would still mean that we have to win the two remaining games against Lautern and Freiburg to collect the aforementioned 17 points that we need for absolute certainty. These numbers games don’t really do much other than serve as a rational argument for what every supporter already knows: Be cautious, don’t celebrate too early. It’s still a long and hard way to go and much more sure bets have been lost before.
Today’s opponent VfB Stuttgart certainly won’t make it easy. Stuck in a heated 5-way battle for the international spots 5 and 6, the Swabians need to collect points to leave northern rivals Hannover and Wolfsburg behind and close in on Bremen and Leverkusen. While the last few games may look decent
Positive for the southern club is the expected return of their captain and defender Serdar Tasci who has been back in training and is expected to start. Kagawa’s fellow Japanese Shinji Okazaki is less certain to return since his knee injury two weeks ago. Coach Labbadia is also still missing Delpierre and veteran Khalid Boulahrouz but is expecting a good 6,000 away supporters to make their way up for the inconvenience Friday-afternoon trip to Dortmund.on paper - wins against Nuremberg and Hoffenheim as well as Hamburg and Freiburg with a tie against Lautern - performance has been mixed and Stuttgart will have to bring it’s A-game to the temple to compete for points tonight.
Who's Gotze again?
If you just started following our Young Guns you may ask that question rightfully. The last few weeks saw a Dortmund squad that lived off its inherent team strength - the whole that is larger than the individual pieces - and not of any individual’s fame and glory - including often-hyped Mario Gotze. In his and the whole team’s defense - these are entirely external phen
omenons everyone in Dortmund knows that the squad is the star. Nonetheless, we are happy to see Mario eventually return against Wolfsburg. This is even more good news since he just extended his contract until 2016, completing another puzzle piece in the long-term strategy of Watzke, Zorc and Klopp.
With the exception of Gotze, coach Jurgen Klopp has just about all players at his disposal. While Terminator Sven “Manni” Bender asked for a short break this week to complete his recovery (and very skillfully cover the fact that he is a machine), both Sebastian Kehl and Ilkay Gundogan are ready to go. This is yet another great opportunity for the Nuremberg transfer Gundogan to continue his path back to full strength after he struggled most of the season to integrate into his new environment.
While the first game against Stuttgart was a 1:1 draw, there is no reason this one can’t be a victory and lead the path to a even better weeksof truth II - while rare, sequels have been know to be better than the original. So re-direct your attention from the endless ticket-request and lottery forms, from scanning ebay and other sources for criminally overpriced tickets and from planning the weekends in May around football matches, parties and the like to football and the pitch. We have a game to win tonight. 7 games, 80,000+, 100% - all the way!
Line-up: Weidenfeller - Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Schmelzer - Gundogan, Kehl - Blaszczykowski, Kagawa, Grosskreutz - Lewandowski
Bench: Langerak (Goalie), Lowe, Owomoyela, Bender, da Silva, Leitner, Perisic, Barrios
Line-up: Ulreich - Sakai, Tasci, Niedermeier, Boka - Kvist, Kuzmanovic - Harnik, Hajnal, Schieber - Ibisevic
Bench: Ziegler (Goalie), Molinaro, Bah, Gebhart, Gentner, Holzhauser, Traore, Maza, Tasci
Referee: Weiner (Giessen)Assistants: Grudzinski (Hamburg), Hacker (Pentz)4th Official: Siebert (Berlin)
Match time: Friday, 8.30 pm CET (2:30 pm EST)
Location: The Temple (Sold out)